The Orlando Pride knew their depth was going to be tested early in the season.
Entering Week 2 of the 2018 National Women’s Soccer League campaign, the Pride were forced to play without six potential starters. Short-handed Orlando let Washington’s Mallory Pugh and Ashley Hatch score late second-half goals, vaulting the Spirit to a 2-0 victory over the Pride on Saturday at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
It was Washington’s first win of the season and Orlando’s first loss.
“We knew it was going to be a tight game, but I thought for most the second half we looked really quite comfortable and I thought we kind of dominated a lot of the game in the second half. We just didn’t finish things off,” Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni said.
“We didn’t create enough, we weren’t quite incisive enough to get front. In these kind of games, when it’s tight, you give somebody like Mallory Pugh a bit of space and time and you get punished. I thought we were looking like the better side. That’s what this league is about. Games are tight and if you don’t stay alert for 90 minutes you get punished.”
Pugh and Hatch, who were both involved in Washington’s two goals, combined for the first in the 80th minute when Hatch found Pugh on a run toward goal. The rising U.S. women’s national team star slotted the ball past goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
Washington (1-1-0, 3 points) added another score in the 88th minute when Pugh’s cross in the box was badly cleared by Orlando’s Carson Pickett, allowing Hatch to strike the ball from close range and push the Spirit ahead 2-0.
Alex Morgan, who suffered concussion-like symptoms during last week’s 1-1 draw against the Utah Royals, was not included in Orlando’s game-day roster at Washington.
The Pride also competed without Brazilian trio Marta, Monica and Poliana and Australian duo Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond, who were all called up by their national teams.
“Young players we got are doing great, but it’s very difficult to throw them in this type of environment,” Sermanni said. “It’s tough on them to do that, but we feel we have a squad that’s competitive regardless of how many players we got away. Obviously, it makes it a little more difficult because you don’t have the same depth when you got six players out of your squad.”
Former UCF women’s soccer team player Bridget Callahan made her NWSL debut after substituting into the game in the 90th minute for midfielder Dani Weatherholt.
Former Pride goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, who finished with four saves, recorded her first clean sheet of the season on Saturday for the Spirit.
The Pride (0-1-1, 1 points) could have taken an early lead in the 32nd minute when a long-range shot by Hill, who made her first start of the season, took a long-range shot that hit the crossbar.
The Pride are off during an international window. They will travel to Providence Park to take on the Portland Thorns on April 15 at 6 p.m. Orlando is back home April 22 when it hosts the Houston Dash at 5 p.m. at Orlando City Stadium.